Celtic hold a narrow lead
Celtic 2-1 HJK Helsinki
Neil Lennon’s Celtic side came from behind at Parkhead to earn a deserved 2-1 victory over HJK Helsinki of Finland in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie.
Gary Hooper and Charlie Mulgrew (pictured) scored the goals, although conceding an away goal to Rasmus Schuller, means the Scottish champions are playing with danger ahead of the second leg, at the Sonera Stadium in Finland next week.
It was a good recovery from the hosts to conceding the away goal, as they aim to return to the group stages of Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
The early pressure and better chances in a scoreless first half came from the home side.
Joe Ledley flashed a shot wide and Georgios Samaras looked a menacing threat throughout.
The Finnish champions survived the wave of pressure and dealt the hosts a massive setback, in the opening exchanges of the second half.
Schuller was put through on goal following a nice passing move from the visitors, only for young English goalkeeper, Fraser Forster to deny him.
However, Schuller didn’t give up and via a deflection off Victor Wanyama, reacted quickest to the rebound and smashed the ball into the net.
A major question was asked of Lennon and his players and the response was magnificent.
Kris Commons hit the post moments after they fell behind but the equaliser was long overdue and came on 54 minutes.
Samaras was the creator, turning in a low cross, that found Hooper and he finished with consummate ease.
The turnaround was completed 13 minutes later, when a Commons corner was met by the head of Mulgrew and his downward header was enough to beat Ville Wallen in the HJK goal.
HJK can count themselves fortunate to still be in the tie but a 1-0 victory in Helsinki next week, would be enough to take them into the playoff round.
There is still work to do for Celtic but they are in a better position than fellow Scots Motherwell, who have it all to do after a 2-0 home defeat to Greek side Panathinaikos.
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, THIRD QUALIFYING ROUND RESULTS, FIRST LEG
Tuesday, 31 July 2012
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By Simon Wright - Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88
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